« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
grimy faces, their short pipes and dirty appearance, made them look more like devils than men, and I bethought me that here, at last, I had found that real animal—the printer's, devil. There were two or three printing-presses in the room, only one of which was going. Its rolling sound was like thunder in the cave in which we stood. after paper
flew out from the sides of this creaking press, they were carried to a long table and piled up in heaps.
Presently some of the stoutest men shouldered a mass or these, and my conductor and myself following them, we entered a passage which led to another cellar, contiguous to that in which the papers were printed. There, sitting round a number of tables, were several young women. These women seized upon a portion of the papers brought in, and with an amazing rapidity folded them into a small com pass.
In a few minutes all the papers I had seen printed were folded and numbered off by dozens. Then comes another operation; a man came round and deposited before each woman a bundle of little paper slips, which I found to be the addresses of the subscribers. The women placed the labels and the paste on one side, and commenced operations. A bundle of papers, folded, was placed before each ; the forefinger, dipped in the paste, immediately touched the paper and the label simultaneously, and the • Constitutionnel’ flew out with a speed perfectly astonishing from the hands of these women, ready to be distributed in town or country. They were then finishing the labelling of the papers of Paris circulation; 20,000 copies scarcely sufficing for the supply.
This was the concluding sight in my visit to a Paris Newswaper-Office.
I would appear that, in almost every age, from time im
memorial, there has been a strong feeling in certain ambitious mortals to ascend among the clouds. They have felt with Hecate,
“Oh what a dainty pleasure 'tis
So many besides those who have actually indulged in it, have felt desirous of tasting the “ dainty pleasure" of a perilous flight, that we are compelled to believe that the attraction is not only much greater than the inducement held out would lead one to expect, but that it is far more extensive than generally supposed. Eccentric ambition, daring, vanity, and the love of excitement and novelty, have been quite as strong impulses as the love of science, and of making new discoveries in man's mastery over physical nature. Nevertheless, the latter feeling has, no doubt, been the main-stay, if not the forerunner and father of these attempts, and has held it in public respect, notwithstanding the many follies that have been committed.
To master the physical elements, has always been the great aim of man. He commenced with earth, his own natural, obvious, and immediate element, and he has succeed ed to a prodigious extent, being able to do (so far as he knows) almost whatever he wills with the surface; and, though reminded every now and then by some terrible disaster that he is getting out of bounds," has effected great conquests amidst the dark depths beneath the surface. Water and fire came next in requisition; and by the process of ages, man may fairly congratulate himself on the extraordinary extent, both in kind and degree, to which he has subjected them to his designs—designs which have become complicated and stupendous in the means by which they are carried out, and having commensurate results both of abstract knowledge and practical utility. But the element of air has hitherto been too subtle for all his projects, and defied his attempts at conquest. That element which permeates all earthly bodies, and without breathing which the animal machine cannot continue its vital functions,-into that grand natural reservoir of breath, there is every physical indication that it is not intended man should ascend as its lord. Travelling and voyaging man must be content with earth and ocean ;-the sublime highways of air, are, to all appearance, denied to his wanderings.
Wild and daring as was the act, it is no less true that men's first attempts at a flight through the air were literally with wings. They conjectured that by elongating their arms with a broad mechanical covering, they could convert them into wings; and forgetting that birds possess air-cells, which they can inflate, that their bones are full of air instead of marrow, and, also, that they possess enormous strength of sinews expressly for this purpose, these desperate half-theorists have launched themselves from towers and other high places, and floundered down to the demolition of their necks, or limbs, according to the obvious laws and penalties of nature. We do not allude to the Icarus of
old, or any fabulous or remote aspirants, but to modern times. Wonderful as it may seem, there are
some instances in which they escaped with only a few broken bones. Milton tells a story of this kind in his " History of Britain;" the flying man being a monk of Malmsbury, " in his youth." He lived to be impudent and jocose on the subject, and attributed his failure entirely to his having forgotten to wear a broad tail of feathers. In 1742 the Marquis de Bacqueville announced that he would fly with wings from the top of his own house on the Quai des Theatins to the gardens of the Tuileries. He actually accomplished half the distance, when, being exhausted with his efforts, the wings no longer beat the air, and he came down into the Seine, and would have escaped unhurt, but that he fell against one of the floating machines of the Parisian laundresses, and thereby fractured his leg. But the most successful of all these instances of the extraordinary, however misapplied, force of human energies and daring, was that of a certain citizen of Bologna, in the thirteenth century, who actually managed, with some kind of wing contrivance, to fly from the mountain of Bologna to the river Reno, without injury. “Wonderful! admirable!” cried all the citizens of Bologna. “Stop a little !” said the officers of the Holy Inquisition; "this must be looked into.” They sat in sacred conclave. If the man had been killed, said they, or even mutilated shockingly, our religious scruples would have been satisfied; but, as he has escaped unhurt, it is clear that he must be in league with the devil. The poor "successful” man was therefore condemned to be burnt alive; and the sentence of the Holy Catholic Church was carried into Christian execution.
That flying, however, could be effected by the assistance of some elaborate sort of machinery, or with the aid of chemistry, was believed at an early period. Friar Bacon suggested it; so did Bishop Wilkins, and the Marquis of Worcester; it was likewise projected by Fleyder, by the Jesuit Lana, and many other speculative men of ability. So far, however, as we can see, the first real discoverer of the balloon was Dr. Black, who, in 1767, proposed to inflate a large skin with hydrogen gas; and the first who brought theory into practice were the brothers Montgolfier. But their theory was that of the "fire-balloon," or the formation of an artificial cloud, of smoke, by means of heat from a lighted brazier placed beneath an enormous bag, or balloon, and fed with fuel while up in the air. The Academy of Sciences immediately gave the invention every encouragement, and two gentlemen volunteered to risk an ascent in this alarming machine.
The first of these was Pilâtre de Rosier, a gentleman of scientific attainments, who was to conduct the machine, and he was accompanied by the Marquis d'Arlandes, an officer in the Guards. They ascended in the presence of the Court of France, and all the scientific men in Paris. They had several narrow escapes of the whole machine taking fire, but eventually returned to the ground in safety. Both these courageous men came to untimely ends subsequently. Pilâtre de Rosier, admiring the success of the balloon afterwards made by Professor Charles, and others (viz., a balloon filled with hydrogen gas), conceived the idea of uniting the two systems, and accordingly ascended with a large balloon of that kind, having a small fire-balloon beneath it—the upper one to sustain the greater portion of the weight, the lower one to enable him to alter his specific gravity as occasion might require, and thus to avoid the usual expenditure of gas and ballast. Right in theory, but he had forgotten one thing. Ascending too high, confident in his theory, the upper balloon became distended too